|Our guide explains the history and structure of the Mongolian yurt at Solitude Resort|
The moon was hidden behind frosty mountains as we wound our way over the wooded snowshoe trail to Solitude Resort's yurt. Three or four of us carried lanterns to assist the group of diners- roughly 20 of us- to the structure located about a mile away from the base of the resort. Energy ran high as we picked our way through the forest, some stumbling over the snowshoes strapped on their feet and laughing as they learned a new way of walking.
|Gearing up with snowshoes provided by the resort|
Hidden away at Solitude, it is not surprising if you haven't heard of the yurt dining experience. An observant rider may catch a glimpse of the round, tent-like structure while riding the Sunrise chair, but other than that, this restuarant- though I hesitate to call it that as the dining area is intimately limited to 22- is strategically located to create a solitary mountain experience.
Back on the trail, a warm glow intensified as we neared the yurt, and though the sub-freezing temperatures didn't stop our cheerful spirits, we were eager to remove our snowshoes and step inside. As we did, we were greeted by a wood stove humming with pots, pans, skillets and the quick prep work of Chef Abby Carlson as she prepared the ingredients of the first course. We seated ourselves and were quickly served refreshments of water (for me) and uncorked bottles of wine which we sipped while our guide proceeded to tell us the history and purpose of yurts in their native land of Mongolia.
Our first course, a pureed cauliflower soup, served perfectly to take the chill off our bones and put us at ease for the rest of the evening. It was paired with tart apples which cut through the creaminess the cauliflower and gave it a refreshing taste. Seared crabcakes with avocado were next, reminding me of a surf side eatery back home in Florida. I was skeptical, being in Utah, at how these would compare, but Chef Abby proved her prowess as I took one bite and fell in love. The crisp sear and the smooth avocados melded into a heavenly combination. Not a bite was left.
Our third course, the salad, was anything but standard: triple cream brie was served atop toasted bread alongside a roasted pear and baby greens salad with a freshly made vinaigrette. Never having tasted the richness of this type of brie, I was expecting a slight bitterness but was instantly delighted by the rich, buttery flavor. Not one to be overcome by salads, I had to hold myself back from stealing bites from my neighbor after my plate was clear.
The highlight of the meal served as our fourth course. Having already been impressed with the other dishes, our eyes opened wider still when we were presented with a plate filled with a rustic meal of sauteed mushrooms and spinach, mashed potatoes and tender beef topped with au jus. Do not be surprised at the simplicity of the ingredients- the skill and selection of quality ingredients provided flavors that were unmatched by similar fare elsewhere. The table quieted as mouths were filled with bite after delectable bite.
We finished the meal, but not the evening, with an oh-so-slightly sweet custard topped with a spicy-sweet chutney. As we slowed our pace with leisurely bites of our final course, the banter between the diners- previously strangers to our party- picked up and laughter joyfully filled the yurt. Wine glasses continued to be refreshed throughout the evening, adding to the increasing boisterousness of the group. We chatted along for an hour after the meal, enjoying music, full bellies and each other's company, only pausing to give a generous applause to the chef as she took her leave into the wintry night.
I have never experienced such tempting flavors prepared in such a primitive way. Chef Abby worked alone over a stove powered by wood, yet successfully brought together flavors which complemented the alpine environment with her own creative twist. Closing the evening and strapping our snowshoes back on, thoughts of the cold night were far from our minds as the silent mountain air was disrupted yet again with laughter and the crunching of snow under our steps. From the first step towards the yurt to the last snowshoe removed, dining at Solitude's Yurt was a true experience that no foodie or outdoor adventurer should miss.